The wonderful Katherine Turza, Brady (5), Callen (4), and Molly (20 months).
Katherine always envisioned herself becoming a mom. Soon after she got married they decided to start a family. They conceived quickly and pregnancy was uneventful for her. At 26, Katherine was the first of her friends and close family to become pregnant, so she didn't have much peer experience to draw from. She went to the obgyn practice she had always gone to for annual checkups, and proceeded with them throughout her pregnancy. Katherine never felt their care was lacking but just went with whatever they told her. She assumed that the birthing experience would come to her in the moment and other than wanting a vaginal birth didn't have much of a plan. Katherine went to the birthing and baby care classes at her hospital but didn’t go to any breastfeeding class even though she planned on nursing - Katherine says that in her naiveté, she thought breastfeeding would come naturally.
With Brady, Katherine went into labor just after returning from a road trip for a wedding she stood up in. She woke at 4am to her water breaking and contractions starting. They headed to the hospital 45 minutes away and were admitted immediately. She was running a high fever and remembers feeling out of it and out of control of the situation. Katherine was confined to the bed and contractions were double peaking so she asked for an epidural in transition, was immediately ready to push and Brady was born thirty minutes later. Katherine tore quite a bit and needed to be stitched after his birth.
While her birth had gone relatively well, Katherine says her first postpartum experience was isolating, exhausting, and extremely trying. She cried most of the time, Brady cried most of the time, and she didn’t know what she was doing breastfeeding. Katherine struggled with all of her responsibilities at home that she felt should still be taken care of, since she was home to do them but didn't feel she could keep up with it all. Breastfeeding wasn't working, pumping was horrible and she was getting ready to return to work so she chose to "stop breastfeeding to save my sanity. I do not regret this decision – with my knowledge and support at the time, it was the right decision for me to make".
Katherine conceived her second baby when Brady was 10 months old. She had a "textbook pregnancy" and things were going well. Because her first birth was quick, her doctors kept telling her that it would probably be quick the second time, too. She had an hour commute to the nearest hospital and a toddler to boot; so it was stressful to think about going into labor. She started contractions on a Friday afternoon at work and went directly to the hospital. She was contracting regularly, but was not progressing and her waters were intact so they sent her home. Contractions stopped and started throughout the weekend and she returned to work on Monday still contracting but not yet in active labor. On Tuesday, she had her 39 week check and learned she was 4 cm dilated. Katherine went home to get her things and get her toddler situated and Callen arrived soon after she got to the hospital and received her epidural. She says that this birth was the least stressful and she loved everything about it.
Katherine had a better support network and was more confident as a mother which helped her have a better postpartum experience with Callen as well. Breastfeeding was difficult with a toddler, and once she returned to work she switched to formula, again.
When Katherine found out she was having a daughter at her 20 week ultrasound, she struggled with the idea of raising a little girl. Having always struggled with body image herself despite having supportive parents, that was her biggest concern for her daughter. She was overweight as a child through high school and remembers how out of place she felt being “bigger” than most girls her age. Shortly after Katherine learned Molly was a girl, she was out jogging and had an epiphany. She was going to be a strong role model for her, and raise her in the most supportive environment they could. From that moment on, she's made a conscious decision to be more accepting of her body. Her goal is to be strong, not skinny. Strong mamas can carry big kids who fall down, strong mamas can carry two littles when their worlds are crashing down around them, strong mamas can run alongside their littles in glee.
Pregnancy with Molly went well. She was due near Katherine's eldest's birthday and when he woke up on his special day he kept asking, "Where's the baby?" Katherine began having intermittent contractions but after Callen’s birth, thought that it might still be days. By that afternoon, however, she couldn't talk through contractions anymore and came to peace with the fact that her babies may share birthday's. She had tested group B strep positive so they dropped her boys off and went to the hospital for antibiotics and got her epidural around 6cm. They broke her waters and started Pitocin and Molly arrived just an hour later.
Katherine was determined this time and thought that she had done everything she could to set herself up for a successful breastfeeding experience. She noticed she was having very painful contractions when attempting to nurse Molly and was bleeding more heavily than she had with her boys but she was told repeatedly that everything was worse with subsequent pregnancies and she listened. At Molly’s one month checkup, she hadn’t gained her birth weight back but because she was “an experienced mom”, and her breasts felt full, no one was worried. The pediatricians attributed it to the IV fluids she got during labor and said Molly probably just had a false birth weight. At her 6 week postpartum checkup, her first follow up with a medical professional, Katherine's OB mentioned that she was still bleeding a lot and scheduled a sonogram which confirmed she had a retained placenta. She was given medication to help get rid of it but when she asked about breastfeeding her doctor didn't mention any possible connection. At Molly's next weight check she still wasn’t to birth weight so Katherine began to see a lactation consultant on staff at the pediatricians. As soon as she mentioned she'd had a retained placenta, the LC diagnosed their issue. She wasn’t producing enough milk. Katherine felt heartbroken.
She had to start supplementing and nurse/pump/nurse around the clock. But, was warned that she may not get her supply up enough to completely wean off formula due to how long it took to get diagnosed. The following week she went to her OB for another follow and told him about her milk supply issue. He responded, “Yes, that’s true. But, you are an experienced mom; you should have known she wasn’t getting enough.” Katherine was crushed and felt so out of tune with her own baby. Thankfully, after some soul searching, she regained her composure and came to terms that she couldn’t change her path. She continued nursing then bottle feeding until Molly self-weaned at 10 months.
Katherine's third postpartum experience taught her that moms need support in all aspects of their motherhood journey. "It’s important to create your own “tribe”, whether virtually or in person. Your tribe keeps you grounded. I’ve since become a postpartum doula hoping to open up the conversation about postpartum care in our community. In order to raise loving, well-adjusted individuals, parents need to be supported and loved. The support is there, most moms just need help finding it."